Open-source database developer Great Bridge closes

Open-source database developer Great Bridge LLC announced yesterday that it would cease operations.

Founded by Landmark Communications Inc. in Norfolk, Va., to develop a commercial version of the PostgreSQL open-source database, Great Bridge was around only for 16 months.

Despite that short life, the company had developed a deep pool of hacker talent to create its software code and was once identified as one of the "25 Coolest Global Companies" by Fortune magazine.

Company officials said in their announcement that they don't believe PostgreSQL is doomed because of the commercial venture's collapse. "We remain convinced that open-source solutions, and in particular the PostgreSQL database, present compelling and viable alternatives for business computing," said Frank Batten Jr., chairman of Landmark Communications and founder of Great Bridge.

Even so, "the board was not convinced that, given the current economic climate, the company could generate revenues at a level to meet the required expenses of the business within the company's funding horizon."

PostgreSQL was originally developed as a teaching tool at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984 and has been developed over the Internet since 1996. It adds object capabilities to standard SQL. Company officials also touted the development community created online.

Back in March, Great Bridge Vice President Ned Lilly talked to Computerworld about Postgres' potential (see story).

"Everyone who is involved with Postgres feels really good about its prospects," Lilly said. "It's not much of a stretch for them to [think] there's a market opportunity here. Oracle is monolithic, so it's not a leap to visualize [success]. The open-source database wave is starting to crest."

Even last week at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, Great Bridge had a large booth and seemed to be going strong.

Confidence in the technology, however, wasn't enough to bolster revenue. In July, Great Bridge sought additional investors or a buyer but was unable to get a cash infusion. That finally prompted the company's board to close shop.

Bruce Momjian, a vice president of database development at Great Bridge, said that the closing will have a minimal impact on PostgreSQL itself and that development will continue in the open-source community.

What will hurt, he said, is that in Great Bridge, PostgreSQL had a big backer and promoter. "We've lost the marketing muscle of Great Bridge, which was huge," he said. The company did a great job promoting the database and giving it good visibility, he said.

Employees received generous severance packages, Momjian said.

Though Great Bridge doesn't have an exact number of users, Momjian said he got "calls from all over the world. I know that we've got an active community of people in the thousands on our user lists."

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